What To Do When Other Parents Are Hard On Their Kids

Instead of "mommy wars," let's help each other

What To Do When Other Parents Are Hard On Their Kids

When parents are hard on their kids

I discovered this post on Arlene Dickinson’s Facebook page. As is common with this type of remark, the comments were divided between women (I’d say 95% of the commenters were women) saying, “I agree!” and “You have no right to judge others—stop it!”

It didn’t take long for me to learn that Dickinson had four children in the span of eight years before her twenty-seventh birthday. I imagine she knows what it feels like to be sleep-deprived, exhausted, caring for four little ones and putting her needs last. I also learned that Dickinson lost those four children in a custody battle with her husband during their divorce. Wow, I can’t imagine how that must have felt.

I can empathize with Dickinson’s feeling in her Facebook post, although I don’t experience it as being “furious” because I have learned that the typical reasons a mother (or father) is yelling, being rude, and mean to her young children are any of the following:

She hasn’t learned what “affect-management” or “self-regulation” mean and doesn’t know how to experience big feelings without letting those hurt others—she doesn’t have a calm-down plan

She was treated harshly as a child

She feels lonely or isolated

She feels unable to use her words to get the help she needs

She might have deep wounds from years past that are not healed

She hasn’t learned strategies to getting those little ones to cooperate

She doesn’t know how to fill her children’s attachment tanks—likely because hers is running on empty, too

She feels overwhelmed, exhausted and not sure how she’s going to make it to the end of the day


If a person is yelling and being rude, the defensive part of the brain is likely in charge so it’s best not to try and give advice. Shouts or swears will likely get directed to you! In order to try and activate the rational part of other person’s mind (I explain a bit more about that in this article), start with empathy. You can try to encourage rationality, but please know that might not happen. Know when to wish the person well and walk away.

When I see a mom at the end of her rope, trying to manage a screaming child, I usually say, “Hey. I’ve so been in your shoes. How about I put the groceries into your van so you can hug that cute girl of yours.” This way I am offering help and directing her to be kind to her wailing child (without coming across as judgmental).

I’ve learned not to ask a question like, “Can I help?” The response will often be, “No thanks—I’ve got it.” I pause after my specific offer of help to give the mom the opportunity to say, “no.” Usually, the mom sighs and says, “Thanks.” I continue with validation like, “Hey no problem. I’ve had days like this, too.” I know I’m not going to change her parenting ways in that moment but perhaps feeling seen and heard in the moment is what she needs most.

So, Arlene Dickinson, if you happen to be reading this, I’ll be happy to talk to you about creating community centers to provide education and support for parents to learn alternatives to yelling and being rude. That is what they need more than our criticism—we are all in this together.


If you are looking for free parenting resources to help reduce yelling and frustration, I invite you over to my Facebook page where I provide tips, strategies and support. 


7 Tips For Creating The Best Conditions For Sleep

Winding your child down for bedtime

7 Tips For Creating The Best Conditions For Sleep

Many children crawl into bed, stare at their parents and say, “I’m not tired.” I’ve heard stories of kids ripping around their bedroom at nighttime, having a hard time winding down to sleep.

There are things parents can do to help create the best conditions for sleeping.

Here are seven suggestions to inviting sweet dreams:

1. Turn ALL screens off at least an hour before bedtime.

We know that the artificial light from any kind of screen (TV, computer, mobile device, video games) stimulates the brain, so it is very important to turn these all off at least an hour before bedtime. I suggest having a “power-down time” for the family, where everyone turns their technology off and the wireless internet is also turned off in the house.

2. Keep all screens out of the bedroom.

It is important to create a positive pairing for your body between the bedroom at nighttime and sleeping. This means training your brain that your nighttime routine and being in your bed tells your systems, “Ah… I’m in bed. That means I’ll be falling asleep now.” This is referred to as positive sleep hygiene. As I mentioned above, the light from screens activates us, so it is important to not put TVs, computers, or other mobile devices into children’s rooms—that will change the pairing to, “I’m in bed… time to rev up and look at a screen.”

3. Make sure all the child’s ya-yas are out during the day.

Children need fresh air, exercise, and unscheduled time. Give your child an opportunity to run and burn off all his energy. Some children have more ya-yas than others, so try to find the point where your child’s energy tank is mostly drained.

4. Fill your child's attachment tank.

Did your child get enough connection time with you today? Many children act out at bedtime, when really they are trying to say, "Hey, I didn't get enough of you today." I explain more about that here.

5. Avoid napping too late in the day.

Several parents have asked me for help with two- to four-year-olds who are not falling asleep until after 9pm. Ninety-five percent of the time, when I ask the parents about things that might be contributing to this, we discover the child is sleeping too long, too late in the day.

If your child under four years old isn’t collapsing into bed at 8pm, consider reducing the daytime sleep and moving it earlier. I actually pulled napping from our schedule when my children were two-and-a-half, because they weren’t falling asleep until 10pm some nights! After the tricky transition period of finding ways to get through the “witching hour” (4-6pm), they both fall asleep almost immediately at bedtime.

Many children who go to daycare are automatically laid down for a nap between noon and 2pm. If this is preventing your child from falling asleep by 8pm, talk to your providers about alternatives to napping—quiet playtime or just napping for 40 minutes instead of two hours.

6. Slow the body down.

When a child is revved up, it is likely his flight-or-fight system is stuck in the “on” position. Here are some ways to shut this system off:

 Have a bath (unless that happens with a sibling and there is often action and fighting during this time)

 Read books that bring a feeling of happiness

 Talk about your child’s three favourite things from the day


 Give your child a massage, focusing on the area at the base of the head and neck and down the spine (to get the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in). I learned a technique that works great for this: put a finger on each side of the spine and draw long, slow lines from the head down to the tailbone.

 Teach your child deep breathing techniques—kids are SUPER at meditating. Find a person to teach you how and create a practice where you take time to breathe at night (I learned from Laurel Crossley). Sometimes when one of my kids is too revved up, I snuggle with him, breathing slowly onto his face until I hear his breathing match mine.

 Lower your voice at night. Nighttime can bring out the worst in parents if everyone is exhausted and the kids are not following instructions. (I continually post articles on my facebook page with strategies to encouraging kids to cooperate and calm everyone down.) Resist any feeling to shout or use a harsh tone.

7. Address nighttime anxiety.

Our self-talk can be used to calm us down or work us up into a panic. Teach your child how to rely on positive messages to calm herself when she is in her room alone (because YOU need sleep, too!).

This is one strategy I use with clients to improve nighttime courage:

Remind your child that she is in charge of her bedroom, so if anything she doesn’t like comes in at night, she just has to say, “GET OUT!” and that thing must leave. If she says, “I tried that, but the squishy monster didn’t leave,” you can say, “Oh, well those kinds of monsters aren’t very smart—you are WAY smarter than it—you might have to tell him a couple of times.”

Tell the child that she is the boss of her room and always wins. Don’t talk about real or not real—a statement like, “Don’t worry, honey, monsters aren’t real,” is actually invalidating. It probably feels real to her. Try instead, “Monsters are story characters, so you get to decide how the story is going to go. Think of ways to win—will you blow him out? Love him so much he turns into a hugging monster?”

This is what I do with my kids:

I have to give my husband credit for this! At night, we say, “Let’s take the bad dreams out,” and then we run our fingers through their heads, stopping to rub a spot on the head, do a pulling motion onto our finger, then flicking each one off our fingers (as if you were pulling something out of their hair). After doing this a few times, we say, “It’s time to start some good dreams…” and then we calmly tell a happy story. I am going to post a video of how I do this shortly.

Please seek help from a trained professional if your child’s anxiety is stopping him or her, and you, from sleeping.

As I mentioned earlier, I continually post free parenting resources on my Facebook page. You are welcome to pop over there to learn, ask questions, and join our supportive parenting community.

Now that your chidren are tucked in and sound asleep, here are 12 tips for you to get a better sleep.

Rough night? Check out these caffeine-free tips to help you get through the days when getting a full night's sleep is just a dream